In almost ten years of supporting ECM systems for law firms, I’ve gotten many calls from clients reporting that their DMS systems are down or just not functional. Email subjects or ticket descriptions typically read:
- “Users can’t save documents!” or
- “iManage is down!” or
- “Hummingbird DM is broken!”
In many of these cases in which the DMS is rendered not functional the root cause is beyond the DMS vendor’s control. It’s not a defect or a bug. Here are a few examples of the kinds of things that bring the DMS product to its knees:
- The file server runs out of space, preventing temp files or new files from being saved
- SQL maintenance plans fail, so SQL backups and logs don’t get cleaned up properly, leading to disk space issues on the SQL server, and then database access issues
- Domain Controller boot-up issues preventing access to the DFS file server share
While these kinds of issues make sense to the IT staff within a law firm, to the end-user all it means is: “I can’t save documents! Our DMS is horrible!” This adds quite a few black-eyes to the legal DMS vendors. While they may deserve some shots, issues beyond their control are just brutal to the vendor’s reputation. And it’s a shame that the DMS often gets blamed by the user community in situations like this. Do you blame a new car for not starting if you’ve never refilled the gas tank? Do you blame a dancer for falling to the ground if you pulled the rug out from underneath him?
So, what can be done to eliminate some of these issues? Remember the foundations:
- Monitor your SQL maintenance plans to ensure databases are being properly backed up and that backup files are being properly cleaned up.
- Monitor available disk space on SQL database volumes, SQL log volumes, and the file repository volume so your disk space adjustment tasks are proactive and not reactive.
- Test file server access and core functions after server maintenance windows.
Ignoring these foundations can lead to easily preventable issues. These are just a few of the basic things we look at when we perform DMS health checks beyond looking at the DMS configurations themselves. Give your products the basic infrastructure and stability they need so operate, so that when there are issues with the DMS product, it’s actually the vendor’s fault.